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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER III
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A.D. 1876

More than half of Charlotte Tucker’s first year in India was now over; and still no thought of work for herself in Batala had arisen. She knew about Batala, and was interested in the place, no doubt, as in all other outlying parts where Missionary work had been even fitfully attempted. But Amritsar was thus far her home; and there she expected to remain. She continued to study hard and perseveringly, in preparation for fuller work, often lamenting her own slowness in learning to speak; and already she was making herself known and beloved by a few Indians,—either Christian, or disposed towards Christianity.

After her return from Dalhousie she wrote in joyous strains: ‘Here I am at dear Amritsar again, which I much prefer to the abode amongst the clouds.’ There was some idea that she might have to go all the way back to Dalhousie, to nurse a sick Missionary there; and she was perfectly willing to do so, without hesitation on the score of fatigue, without a thought of the long, troublesome journey. No one else could be so well spared at that period from Amritsar as herself; and this she fully realised. ‘If however dear Florrie rallies nicely,’ she wrote, ‘I have not the slightest intention of going to cloudland again. Pankah-land suits my taste better.’ Happily, it was not necessary for her to go.


It was in the spring or summer of this year that she began to name her various new friends after certain jewels, according to her estimate of their respective gifts and characters. She possessed, in imagination, a jewelled bracelet, representing the different Missionary gentlemen of her acquaintance,—Diamond, Opal, Amethyst, etc. A companion bracelet was supposed to represent the Missionary ladies,—consisting of Diamond, Sardonix, Onyx, etc. Also she had in mind ‘an extraordinary necklace, Oriental pattern, formed of Native friends,’—those Indian Christians, whom she had begun to know and to love, many of whom repaid her love, and did not disappoint her trust in the coming years.

A little later, in the letter describing this favourite idea, she adds: ‘Now we come to my yellow girdle, studded with gems. This is composed of dear ones in Old England; my own Laura being the Pearl nearest the heart.’

A more prosaic and less romantic nature can perhaps hardly understand, much less sympathise with, the delight afforded to her curiously symbol-loving mind by this manner of regarding those whom she loved.

In July a letter speaks of ‘seeing more of the lights and shadows of Missionary life’ than before. A certain young Muhammadan, in whom they were greatly interested, after long inquiry and hesitation, at length made up his mind to come boldly forward, and to be baptized. Arrangements were made for his Baptism in the Church by a Native clergyman; the matter being kept as quiet as possible, for avoidance of the opposition which was sure to arise. Miss Tucker was told only on the morning of the day what was about to happen; and great was her delight, as well as her fear that some hindrance might intervene.

‘I had a kind of intuitive feeling,’ she said, ‘that something might come to prevent the Convert from openly[226] confessing his Lord. I knew not how great the danger was.’

One hour remained before the time fixed for the Baptism, when the young man—Babu G. he may be called—came in, troubled and pale. His Mother had somehow divined his intention, and was doing her utmost to prevent its being carried out. She flung a brick at the head of one Christian Native, who had had a hand in influencing the young Muhammadan; she raved and beat her breast; she cursed and tore her hair; she declared to her son that if he became a Christian she would die.

Babu G. believed all this, and was sorely shaken. His Mother was brought to the Mission-house, and a vehement scene followed. The old lady sat upon the ground, pouring out threats and curses, beating her breast and tearing her hair anew,—only, as A. L. O. E. somewhat drily observed afterwards, she very cleverly avoided hurting herself by her blows, and none of her hair seemed to come out with all the apparent ‘tearing.’ But the young man could hardly be expected to see this as a stranger would! He wavered—hesitated—and at last gave way. The Baptism did not take place; and the unhappy young fellow, convinced of the truth of Christianity, willing in heart to be a servant of Christ, had not courage to take his own decision, but remained a Muhammadan. Bitter tears were shed over his defection by gentle Mrs. Elmslie; the first that Miss Tucker had ever seen her shed.

Such stories as this show conclusively that the work which most of all needs to be done in India is to transform the Mothers,—to educate a generation of Christian Mothers. Their sons then will be Christian too. No power in the world surpasses that of a mother over her children, whether she be English or Hindu or Muhammadan.

Charlotte Tucker’s stern side seems to have come out[227] in this stormy interview with the furious old lady. ‘Are you not afraid,’ she demanded, ‘that God’s anger is on you? You have been your son’s enemy. When affliction comes, remember,—remember,—REMEMBER!’

Side by side, however, with this great disappointment, were other more hopeful aspects of the work. Light and shade naturally go together. A few days later she wrote:—

‘The mother still holds her unhappy son in bonds, and forbids him even to breathe the air of our compound.... But even about her we need not despair. I was reading the Gospel to-day with the sweetest-looking elderly woman that I have seen in India. All beauty generally departs with youth, but this woman is really attractive still. She was in bitter grief at the baptism of her eldest son; when the next was baptized she blessed him; and now she is quite ready for baptism herself. Such a sweet expression came over her face yesterday when I reminded her of her former grief and her present joy!’

On August 8th she wrote:—

‘The old Chaukidar[44] made us laugh the other evening by his earnest, emphatic warning against our ladies driving out at night. He uses sometimes almost frantic gesticulations. He told us that there is danger of meeting at night a dreadful being, in appearance somewhat like Mr. H.—a tall, fair, blue-eyed handsome young friend of ours!—whose object is to cut off English heads. I have heard of a similar superstition in the Hills; but there I fancy that Native heads, not English, were in requisition. You can imagine from this what a funny fellow the old Chaukidar is; but we look on him as true as steel. One day Mrs. E. found him most good-naturedly pulling Iman’s pankah for him. She was so much pleased that she gave him four pomegranates. The old fellow was delighted, and at once gave three of them away, keeping only one for himself. His friend, our half-blind Iman, was one to benefit by his generosity.’

The name ‘Iman,’ meaning ‘Faith,’ was bestowed by Miss Tucker upon a poor pankah-wala, whose affectionate[228] disposition made a strong impression upon her. The poor fellow, although half-blind, volunteered one day to walk the whole twenty-four miles to Batala and back in three days, to carry medicine to a sick woman there,—the wife of the young Muhammadan, Babu G., above mentioned. Iman himself was, to say the least, disposed to be a Christian. These little side facts all serve to show the manner of influence which was acting gradually in all directions.

In another letter, belonging to August, are the words: ‘We are rather on the tiptoe of expectation about our Bishop that is to be. There is a rumour that good Mr. —— is the man; but surely it is impossible that such a shy, boy-like Missionary should be turned into a Right Reverend Father!’ The appointment when made proved to be that of Bishop French, well known in Mutiny days as Mr. French of Agra, who utterly refused to allow the Christian Natives to be banished from the town, as was proposed by some faint-hearted people there. If they went, Mr. French said, he would go with them; and he undertook to answer for their faithfulness. His resolution prevailed; and the little band of Indian Christians were faithful to the end of the Siege.

About this time a change took place, which A. L. O. E. ‘quite approved,’ but which she did not ‘like.’ Mrs. Elmslie left the Mission Bungalow, to live at the neighbouring Orphan House, taking charge of the orphans. A superintendent under her had hitherto done the work, but had proved inefficient; and the new plan was not only better in itself, but promised to save money—always a prime consideration where Missionary funds have to be considered.

On August 23rd comes a letter of some importance, respecting the kind of Missionaries wanted out there. This subject will recur from time to time in the course of[229] the correspondence; but even at so early a stage as this Miss Tucker seems to have clearly grasped what was and what was not required.

‘It is very kind in you to send me the Illustrated. After it has been seen here, and at the Orphanage, and by the dear, good Germans, off it starts for Dalhousie, and Florrie probably makes it over to the soldiers after she has done with it; so you see that you benefit many by your kindness.

‘I do not think that my Margaret at all enjoys being away from us in the schoolhouse, though she keeps bright and brave. “The Mother is as home-sick as can be,” was the description given by one of our ladies, this house being the “home” meant. Of course, we go over and pet her, and get her here when we can. I hear that her room was leaking so last night; that must be looked to at once. But rooms had a fair excuse for leaking; we had such a storm!...

‘It was amusing when Emily, Ada, and I were talking over our youth the other day. Dashing, energetic games had been the delight of my companions; and I begin to imagine that cricket, rounders, and bolstering form no bad preparation for Missionary life. Dash and energy and physical strength are very desirable. We want ladies who fear nothing, grumble at nothing, and are ready to carry the Holy War into the enemy’s camp. One of Emily’s many advantages is that she is a fearless rider. I am rather alarmed at hearing that an extremely delicate lady is coming out to us. We want hearty, strong ladies, not sickly ones. The Missionaries are too short of hands to be able to undertake much sick-nursing. If I were to require to be nursed at night—which, thank God, I have not done—I should feel inclined to run off somewhere or other, so as not to tax the strength of my nieces.’

Only two days later we have mention of the first Baptism in Batala, her future home during so many years. She writes: ‘A deeply interesting event took place yesterday at Batala; the baptism of a Brahmin, a man in a very influential position, and in Government employ. Dear Sadiq[45] and I believe other Christians went to Batala on[230] Wednesday for the Baptism, which was to be as public as possible—in a tank.’ This was written August 25; and on the 29th she gave more particulars.

‘The jackals treated us to their varied music last night; but one does not mind them a bit, for they never seem to attack people, or intrude into houses. I wish that they would teach their good manners to the sparrows. The cheetah also is a modest creature. There was an account very lately of a cheetah going into a verandah at Dalhousie; nothing between it and the interior of the house but a chick blind; but it was too polite to intrude. It would be rather exciting to look at a cheetah through a chick blind; you can see through it quite well, as the light is outside.

‘But, O Laura, I ought not to waste my space on cheetahs or jackals, when I can write of things so much more interesting. I had such an interesting account of the Baptism of B—n, the Brahmin at Batala, from Mr. Beutel,[46] supplemented by one from Sadiq. They were both present.... Mr. Beutel observed that he (B—n) had had to go through more than many do in a campaign. Why, except the Catechist and his wife, he is the only Christian that we know of in that fierce, bigoted Batala. As the Muhammadans did not know of the time fixed for the baptism, at the beginning of the Service by the tank not many people gathered; but seeing that something was going on, gradually a crowd collected. At last the crowd grew large—and excited also—and the police authority had to be called in for protection.

‘Perhaps the worst of all was the Christian’s reception at his home; his wife came with her three little ones to meet him, beating her breast, etc. Sadiq had intended to carry B—n back to Amritsar with him, to let the first fury of the storm blow over; but poor B—n preferred remaining at Batala, because if he left his wife, he did not know what she might do with his children. So there the brave fellow remains. We ought to pray earnestly for this our brother.’

In a letter to her niece, Mrs. Boswell, on September 1st, Charlotte Tucker spoke of herself as ‘heart-sick with anxiety’ about the convert, regretting much that he had not come to Amritsar.


‘Would that he could have carried wife and children off with him! but I suppose that this was impossible, against the woman’s will. Dear Sadiq soon went again to Batala;—alas! he was not suffered to see the convert, who is surrounded by enemies, and seems to be quite in their power. B—n’s wife, after starving herself for three days from grief at his baptism, has died, it is said from an attack of cholera.

‘Our fear is that the heathen are starving B—n and his three children to death! One poor lamb is but a few months old. If I were a man, I would be off to Batala. My friend Mr. H. has written a strong note to an English official at no great distance from Batala,—there not one Englishman resides,—and I feel little doubt that he will bring the strong arm of the law to protect B—n. But the note will not reach till this evening. For eight days B—n will have been in the fiery furnace. How long can he hold out?’

Reports, happily false, of the retractation of the convert came to distress them at Amritsar; and Mr. Beutel, leaving his wife and mother dangerously ill, went over to Batala to inquire how matters stood. He found B—n, though much tried and sorely pressed, still standing firm.

It is melancholy to read of Charlotte Tucker’s eager delight in carrying the good news to her favourite Maulvi Z.,—of whom at that time she thought so well and hopefully as an established Christian, and who in later years was to grieve her most bitterly by himself becoming an apostate.

Letters at this time show her steadily growing interest in Batala, her ever-increasing desire for systematic work there.

‘Sept. 14, 1876.—I have been delaying writing till I could give you news from Batala,—that place towards which Missionary eyes longingly turn, as those of the Germans did towards Strasburg. May Batala be given to us, as Strasburg was to them.’

‘Sept. 20.—As regards my little Indian tales, I have sent a good many to Nelson, who............
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